No matter which way you decide to go, make sure you cover and insulate any exposed piping coming from the water supply and the spigot! If your water connection to the RV is on the exterior of the wall (not inside a bay/basement) you will also need to cover and insulate that connection very well. If you do have a wet bay you should consider placing a space heater in the bay just in case temps get low enough to freeze and burst the connection.
For healthcare we keep $8,000 in our HSA account (tax-free health savings account). This not only covers our regular yearly self-pay checks, but also covers the individual deductible on our health care plan in case we should ever need it. We keep an additional 4-6 months of savings in ready cash (e.g. cash, money market, savings) for unplanned RV, pet & other expenses and regularly add to these savings through our monthly budget.
Overnight campsite and RV park fees with hookups typically range from $30 to $50 per night or more. That is $900 to $1,500 per month. However, a lot of full-timers avoid paying anywhere near that much and average closer to $500 to $900 per month. There are many ways to save money on overnight camping costs, and those are covered on our Full-time RV Lifestyle Tips page.
Vehicle fuel – If you have a towable, you will need to estimate fuel for “moving days.” This can vary greatly depending on how often and how far you move. Our first year we came up with a rough itinerary with total mileage and an average cost of fuel per mile. In addition, for both tow and towed vehicles, you will need to budget for fuel in the local area.
Chris, I live in Maine and this will be my first winter in my rv. I’m stationary but running a hose which is all outside, I don’t have the means to run heat tape but really have been looking for any possible way to keep running water. I have skirting the bottom with hay bails and plastic for drafts and wrapped my bump outs with insulation and plastic. I’m hoping to add an entryway with a wood stove for back up heat. do you have any other suggestions on what else to do so I don’t freeze up my lines in the brutal cold ? Thank You 🙂
7. RV’s aren’t air tight. I don’t care if you’re in a $2,000,000 bus or a $5,000 trailer your RV is not sealed like a bricks and sticks home. Cold air leaks in under the slides, permeates through the walls, and seeps through the windows. If you plan to stay in freezing weather for an extended period of time locate those drafty areas and throw a blanket over them. For our Windy it’s amazing how much cold air comes in through the entry door area, so I cover the stairwell with a piece of board and my rug at night.
Sewer Hose – Use a PVC pipe for your sewer line instead of the standard RV drain hose, it will hold up much better in the freezing temps. If you have a constant water supply and you want to let your grey water drain the safest thing you can do is wrap the sewer pipe with additional insulation, if temps will be freezing for multiple days you may want to install heat tape around the PVC pipe. I always recommend keeping the black tank closed off and dumping only when necessary, getting a #poopcicle stuck in the drain is not a good way to start the day.
What about interest though? At a 4% interest rate, the total cost of that $343,000 home would be over $471,000 over 30 years, before you factor in all of the other monthly bills!. It’s hard to compare these things exactly though, as a house can last for many generations, whereas most RVs will have a hard time lasting for an entire person’s lifetime (especially if you buy used when you’re still young). Airstreams and very well built Class As are the exception.
This RV couple is semi-retired but can’t put the entrepreneur spirit inside of them to rest quite yet. They live in a 1999 Class A motor home, which often needs repairs. However, that is no problem for the mister who is an RV mechanic. Their travel style is very flexible and go with the flow. They typically like to be on the go and tend to travel far and fast, with plans of someday slowing down. They enjoy boondocking as much as possible, particularly where they can enjoy the land and nature and meet interesting people. They love activities of all kinds – outdoor, tourist, city exploration, etc. They are clearly young at heart!
We live five months a year in our motorhome spending 7 months in our Mexican casa down in San Felipe, Baja. This has been our life style since 2005. Looking over your expenses have you every shopped on eBay for software products? You can save bundles. . . . I buy a ton of our “needs” on eBay with great savings and success just shipping it to where ever we are staying. Also, I am a thrift store junkie. I love nice, expensive (brands) clothes and kitchenware but don’t like paying full price. I find great bargains in Goodwill and Saver stores. It makes it fun to seek out these stores in all the different stops we make. I “cleaned house” this summer back east in their Goodwill stores. Just a thought. . . I enjoy your website very much. . . you’re having a lot of fun in your travels. I also would rather stay at a Harvest Host site versus Walmart!
I used to spend a lot of money on internet service and full package cell but this last few years I’ve changed. Now I bring a cell phone for emergencies but it is not activated as 911 does not require activation. I use the kind of phone that can be used by purchasing a card just in case but have not yet needed to do so. In almost every town the public library allows you to use their computers for doing business and just finding were to go can be fun and a good way to see the place. I use Google chat to talk for a few minutes to special people and download a few pics to face book. Our philosophy now is to travel shorter distances per day, travel slower, and see more. Pretty near all of our budget goes to restaurants and gas.
But Yankee ingenuity prevailed on the part of our fellow campers. The gang put their heads together to deal with the trials of winter RVing. One guy had a large pickup that was not street legal, but could get around the campground. Another woman had a relative nearby with a big portable water tank they used on their farm. It fit in the back of the truck and held 300 gallons of water. Another guy had a pump that would pump water from the supply tank to RV fresh water holding tanks.
Ok, I am sure that you are going to say “just forget it” but here is my situation. I am 66 in good physical condition. I am in a situation that I am not happy with. I live rent free in a house with most all my expenses paid. But…..the conditions I am living in are not what I want. I have to mow and maintain a lawn with shrubs and trees, maintain anything that goes wrong with the house, keep the house clean, etc, etc. I’m sick of it. I take extended road trips occasionally but then I have to return to the drudgery of S&B.
We quickly learned that we didn’t like that he had to be at the table working all day while the kids and I were out exploring all of these amazing places! Plus, having to go back to Wisconsin was expensive and limiting how far we could travel. California is quite a drive from Wisconsin, especially if you want to go back and forth. The cost of him flying back alone would add up, not to mention I just did not want him leaving us for a week.
Hello, I’m a retired mechanic at age of 55, my wife is a stay at home/retired CNA….we have adopted 2 children now 11 and 12 yrs. We have been tossing around the idea of RV lifestyle for a while. Looking to find other Christian based RVers. Ideally we would like to travel small town and help along the way in the fashion of helping with folks not as blessed as we are. Believe me when I say this will be a HUGE change for us. I was planning to travel when I retired….just had not planned on doing it with children,(what do ya do?). so with that in mind how would a family make contact with churches and possibly fill some needs as we go.
$1099 Equipment Upgrades – The more Videos I shoot the more Hard Drives I need, and the faster my computer needs to be! I added a second Hard Drive to my Laptop, it’s a blazing fast hybrid drive and works perfectly as a ‘scratch disk’ for my video files (drive plus install kit $175). I had to purchase a new Wireless Lavaliere receiver due to my unfortunate accident of dropping the camera into the creek (see the previous post on expenses for the ugly details) however my insurance policy covered this cost, YEA! We bought a new “toy” it’s the Canon EOS M ($794), check my post on Secrets to HD Video on the Road for more details on how much we love this tiny camera (and what we don’t like about it). I purchased a new 3TB External Hard Drive for redundant backup ($130), you have to be prepared for a computer or hard drive to crash at any time, better safe than sorry right?
Most RVs aren't rated for extreme temperatures and most full-time RVs head to warmer climates during the coldest months. But what do you do when moving south isn't an option? There are a few improvements you can made to your RV to make it warm and comfortable and get you through the winter safely. Carolina Coach & Marine, serving Charlotte, Winston-Salem, and Greensboro, SC, wants to see you safely through the cold and ice, read below then visit our dealership for more help preparing your RV.
I’m in awe of you first, 4 kids all under 10, that’s incredible enough and then a blog, a virtual assistant business to boot. WOW. So nice to learn more about you and your family, Brianna. Funny that you can’t wait to go overseas and we actually haven’t seen much of our own country, the USA and can’t wait to explore more of it. Wishing you the best in your full-time RV travels and will certainly look to you for advice when we finally travel our home country.
This category includes all the tools and supplies we use to keep the rig in good shape. Mark loves to try new products and has a growing collection of tools in his toolbox. Before we left, he made the mistake of selling almost all of his tools. If you are handy and can work on your rig, don’t make that mistake too! He tried to “make do” with the bare minimum of tools for the first year, which is why this category didn’t used to exist for us, but now he regularly buys little goodies that make his maintenance tasks easier.
Most RV fridges are tiny and hold ¼ of what a standard size fridge holds, so planning is a must before making the trek into town to the grocery store. You have to know exactly what you will be cooking and how much space you have. Throwing “extras” into the cart can’t happen. That’s why I don’t take Brett with me shopping. He is the worst about buying off the list!
Relax. Every second of every minute does not need to be planned out to make the most of your vacation. Instead enjoy laying in bed as a family for 2 hours in the morning. Spend hours swimming together in the pool or at the beach. Don’t worry there will still be time to do some activities. Some of the best moments are on the unscheduled and unplanned time you have together as a family.
You guys rock. Love the expense detail. I’m a director/producer myself and my wife is an actress/spokesperson. Have talked about living full time in an RV, but mostly within the state due to business, clients, elderly parents, etc., – with the occasional road trip. Can’t tell you how much you guys have helped us plan. Your videos are excellent too, and I know what I’m talking about!
It is totally possible! But also know it isn’t the magic solution to make everything better. You will still have to make conscious decisions each day to get in shape and live life the way you want to. We try to be very up front with the fact that this isn’t an easy lifestyle. It is amazing and life changing but it isn’t easy. If you have a desire to travel and to get out and be more active you can definitely achieve that with this lifestyle. It is safe – especially if you stay at campgrounds/RV parks. It is scary at times – because we are going against the norm – but also rewarding for the same reason. It is just like a life in a house in a lot of ways – you will still have to work, cook your food, do your laundry, parent your kids, etc. If you want to do it we say go for it! Just be aware it takes work and isn’t all rainbows and sunshine! If you have any other questions let us know.
In the winter you’ll notice condensation accumulating on the windshield, on walls, etc. Condensation is your enemy. I know it sounds contradictory but you need to crack a vent or a window at all times. Condensation can build up, get in the walls, etc and cause mold. You do not want this! Simply crack a window and turn on a fan to circulate the air, if you’re already using a space heater with built in fan you don’t have to worry about running a separate fan. You can also put the dehumidifier pellets like Damp Rid or DriZair (you can purchase at most stores) in the areas that seem to draw the most condensation. We’ve found the condensation will not pose a problem as long as it’s 40% relative humidity or less inside the RV.
We learned this lesson the hard way winding through a tightly tree’d campground in FL in our first year on the road. We didn’t watch the back end of the rig as we turned through a narrow curve. The front made it through fine, but our back end swung out just slightly and the palm tree sheared off the entire slide topper cover on that side. Oops! We’ve never (cross fingers and paws) made that mistake since, but heavily tree’d parks are always difficult for us, and the bigger your rig the more this is true.
The family spent weekend after weekend looking for apartments, but the high rents in the area left them drained and discouraged. "We needed a two-bedroom apartment, and they were all upward of $1,800 a month," Jacqueline said. After seeing some examples of RV living on her Instagram feed, she softened to the idea of living in an RV. "I thought, 'We either finance a $20,000 trailer, or we go and get an $1,800-a-month apartment and try to save," Jacqueline said. "[An RV] just made way more sense."
No, I don't. However, I've been RVing for more than 50 years and know which parks likely will have availability. When I'm not sure, I reserve..but I rarely do this. Availability is becoming a problem due to the huge increase in the numbers or RVers in recent years. If you're not sure, reserve, but bear in mind that if you have to cancel, they'll keep at least the first night's costs or charge a fee.
Typically there is one main bay that holds your black/grey/fresh tanks, your sewer connections, water pump, water filter, etc. This is the MOST important bay to keep warm. I purchased a tiny 200 watt (1.8 x 4.3 x 6.1 inches) ceramic heater and leave it running in the bay during freezing temperatures. It pulls about 5 amps and keeps all my pipes warm (exterior temp 20 degrees, inside bay 50 degrees). Some people recommend hanging a work light in the bay: I tried this and the bulb melted the plastic bay, and my water still froze so I don’t recommend this option.
Emergency Fund – The most important part of savings is your emergency fund. Conventional wisdom suggests you should have at least six months of expenses in a savings account. I know a lot of people scoff at the idea of a traditional savings account where you might only earn 1% interest annually. However, if you think about it anything is better than earning 0%, or not having savings and going into credit card debt for emergencies, which will cost you 10% in interest or more.
If you install solar power, a big battery bank, or upgrade your converter or inverter or have any kind of add-on that is pernamently attached to the rig, and you have an older rig that you are insuring for Actual Cash Value, that upgrade will be part of the Actual Cash Value figure that the insurance adjuster will be calculating at the time of a claim. If you are insuring for Replacement Value, check with your agent how best to cover major upgrades.
It’s been just over a year since we moved out of the RV. Even though we knew our decision to stop full time RVing was the right one, moving out of the RV was easier said than done. With the help of some friends, it only took a few hours to get all our stuff out of the RV. The emotional “moving out” has taken much longer. For Brent and I, it’s been a surprisingly difficult painful new “road”.
After a year of full-time RVing, we slowly added these items to our home on wheels and they greatly improved RV life for us. We never expected to want or need these items when we first started out and love sharing them with newbie RVers! If you’re interested in finding out what these items are, check out this post: 5 Items That Improved RV Life for Us!
My only issue with this article is the title “The real costs” which implies that you are about to tell us that full time RVing is not as cheap as some people might think. Instead you provided your expenses which I would speculate are much higher than the average. As a number of people mentioned your lot rent is perhaps two to three times higher than the typical rent.
We also use uscampgrounds.info. Great resource. Full-timing is certainly not for everyone. It requires some risk taking, overcoming fears of the unknown, saying good-bye to family and friends, and doing some things that may not seem wise. In the beginning, Paul admits, that one of his biggest full-timing faults is, he has difficulty “rolling-with-the-punches.” I find that the most challenging thing is not looking back so much. I love to reminisce and this leads me to get a bit melancholy. We have enjoyed worshipping with many different denomination and at nondenominational churches. We have made so many new friends that we stopped counting. This is one of the biggest advantages to our lifestyle. Thanks, Nina, for the great blog and giving Paul and I a few minutes of reflecting on our past year.
Hi Guys, we enjoy your blog. We are planning on full timing it next year. We are working hard on our house so we can sell it. We retired from our sign business (The Sign Mobil) in 96 and went cruising on our (37′ Sea Runner Trimaran) for 10 years. Since then we have lived on6 acres near Ava, Mo. We’re tired of the winters, tornados and lawn mowing. We’re planning on buying a 35′ motorhome and hitting the road. Your blog is a godsend with tons of good info. We will be using Mail Call in Shelter Island for our address. I did the sand blasted sign for mail call in 1986. Have you used them? We may have met each other in San Diego. I am a grad of Point Loma High went to San Diego State. I knew a Liberto when I was in school. Any Connection to your name?
loved seeing your post, I am a homeschooling widow mother of a 10 years old girl and would love to get on the road in an RV, I did have a truck and travel trailer but could not go very far, I just do not feel safe traveling by ourselves and would love to meet other homeschoolers and travel and explore this wonderful country together, have you met families traveling together?
If you’re looking to find financial freedom and are willing to make some significant lifestyle changes to do that, then RVing could be a path to achieve that but it is NOT a golden ticket quick fix – it’s a bit more complicated than that. I'd suggest checking out Mr. Money Mustache for some good financial tips and tricks if you're really looking to make some changes in your pocketbook.
That’s a pretty big size nut for living in an RV. $1100 for the month for lot rent seems rather against the tenets of tiny house living which seeks to reduce your overhead. Throw in laundry and utils cost and you’re about $1300/month. I can lease a darn nice house around here for a lot less. One other thing I’m confused about is you say you pay $600/year for auto/trailer insurance and then your monthly budget is $196. That doesn’t add up.
We had been accustomed to a two car garage, and now got a new perspective on the task of shoveling the driveway. After one storm, the cars were just barely peaking through the drifted snow. We had to clear an area 40 feet long by 10 feet wide in order to pull the cars in and park them. Our efforts left us with a snow bank just about as long and wide, and about 8 feet high. The good news: our self-constructed snow bank served to block the wind. Well… sort of.
I have spent the last 3 hours browsing many of your articles and have really appreciated your depth in explanations (from the dump station details, to which solar panel to buy to the realistic cost of repairs). My husband and I are in our mid-twenties and plan to move into an RV full time within the next few months (a cheap used one!) and then camp for free either by camp hosting or working for a free spot or most likely (for much of the year at least) living off the grid. While we won’t be traveling with it (when we travel we typically bike-tour) we will be living in it full time as we work (we work seasonally in two different locations) and plan to raise kids (at least while they are small) in it! Thanks for all the time and effort you have put into your blog and into the relevant information you share! Happy trails.
$2,500 Insurance: Includes RV insurance, Car insurance, Life Insurance, Renter’s Insurance (to cover our belongings at home), Jewelry Insurance, and a Rider policy for camera/computer gear. We switched to State Farm Insurance halfway through the year and it saved us nearly $75+ per month vs. Geico and Progressive. We do not currently have health insurance, I know don’t yell at us… (est. savings $900)
We cook with an electric plate, which works well for us, as our diet is simple because we’re both diabetic. We only use propane to run the fridge when we’re traveling, and have disconnected the propane hoses from the stove and furnace – we never use either – and we stuffed the vents with loads of rags years ago. We’ve never had a problem with rodents or bugs in any season.
There is an RV ready to match your dream. Use your vacation RV trips to test different rigs. If you are visiting off-the-beaten-track tourist nooks and wilderness sites a more maneuverable RV could be preferable to a motorcoach. Or your dream RV just may not have as much room as you need to live on the road full time comfortably. Be honest with yourself up front and you will save yourself the hassle of trading up or down in your first few years untethered from a home base.
$3,472 *not included in overall expense* 2WynnInc Expenses – The corporate expenses associated with running our business from the road: Bookkeeping, Payroll, editing, etc. Doesn’t include state or IRS taxes. I’ve included my business expenses for this Quarter since we just posted our Make Money and Travel article. I don’t spend this much every quarter, it can vary widely depending on each project, but on average we spend around $1000 each month on the backend (i.e. not the website, email subscriptions, hosting, etc) to run our traveling business.
For your expenses, you’re going to have both fixed and variable expenses. Fixed are going to be the same every month and HAVE to be paid. These are things like cell phone, internet, and insurance bills. If you have a loan on your RV or vehicle, they would also fit into this category (*Note: we highly recommend eliminating this monthly expense if possible by buying less-expensive used RVs/vehicles.) Trying to get these Fixed Costs down is key to a low-cost lifestyle, so try to find way to eliminate or reduce these when possible.
This was another big challenge. We chose Florida Virtual School, which is an online public school for Florida residents. We were worried about our ninth grader having the right credits for ninth grade, and about our own abilities to home school. But since it was the same curriculum as public school, it took almost the same time commitment per class each week.
$827 Costco – Because we didn’t find many farmers markets or affordable natural food stores on this portion of our trip, we renewed our Costco membership. For the amount cooking we do, Costco is the best way for us to get reliable organic, natural, and affordable food items. Yes you must purchase in bulk, however we try not to over-purchase, and we rely on Costco for our staples only like tomatoes, beans, hummus, chips, etc. Sometimes we’ll even find local venders in Costco from coffee roasters, to pastry makers, to exotic cheeses made from nearby farms….and that’s why we choose Costco over Sam’s Club.
It may seem obvious that the less things that get dirty, the less has to be cleaned. However, how you apply that knowledge can make a lot of difference. We use paper plates (not foam) and paper cups almost exclusively. When possible we cook in the microwave in Glad or Ziplock containers so that leftovers store in the same container in which they cooked. We do use regular silverware but I’ve often thought that chop sticks would work just as well for most things (I haven’t cleared that one with Ella – GRIN.)
The window shrink film kit comes with double-sided tape, and all you have to do is outline the door with the tape, remove the backing, press the plastic onto the tape, trim off the excess and then heat it up with a hair dryer to make the plastic taught. It is best to clean the frame of the door with alcohol or film remover first so the tape adheres well.
How do we do it? We do 99% of our spend through credit cards (where we actively collect points too**) and I’m old-fashioned so I import all my bank & card data into an Excel spreadsheet. I do this every month, allocate each line to a category (e.g. entertainment, RV parks, insurance, groceries etc.) and then churn out a pretty pivot table to display it in one place. I’ve been tracking our spend this way for over 13 years and before that I used paper, so I literally have detailed spend numbers going back to when I was around 17 years old (crazy, I know).
Our situation is fairly unique (I think) because I work away from my family for 2 weeks and then i’m back with them for two weeks. I work in northern Alberta ( we are Canadian) and for the 6 really cold month of winter we could be anywhere in the US or Canada. For the 6 not so cold months she wants to set up camp in northern Alberta. near where I work. Our family is very concerned for the safety of my wife and kids while I am gone away at work for two weeks. do you have any advice on this or know any other fulltime families that have a similar situation?
Totally depends on HOW you travel. I have male buddies who travel in vans that live this lifestyle for around $12,000 per year (look up ToSimplify, CheapRVLiving and Van-Tramp in my blog links), and I have friends who use much, much more. I would say you can do it on anything from $1,000/mo to $5,000/mo depending on how far you travel, where you stay, how frugal you are etc.
Many people dream of living in an RV and traveling full time, and for the most part, it’s retirees who are able to live the RV lifestyle. However, there are many young people who are intrigued by the freedom that RVing full time represents. They are hitting the open road as well. One of the first questions prospective full time RVers of all ages ask is – how much will it cost each month?
My wife and I enjoyed your website originally as a passing entertainment phenomenon. Then we decided it made a lot of sense for us. We are in our late 60’s, have a huge old house filled with antiques that the kids either don’t want or cannot handle. So we are following your suggestion. We are selling it all ourselves; dividing the spoils, and buying an Excursion (a light color combination we think) then hitting the road.
Propane – If you have propane appliances (stove top, oven, refrigerator, or heater), you will need to budget for propane. This varies depending on usage. We don’t RV in cold climates, but we do use our propane stove top and oven daily. We have 2 propane tanks on our Fifth Wheel, and only need to refill about 2-3 times per year. Still, we average the cost and budget for it monthly.
I can go on for hours, but ultimately I can’t wrap my head around the fact I am going to pay rent for another year and get nothing in return in the long run. It seems like a waste of money. What are your thoughts? Is it possible to find a van in that state? Any aspect of van dwelling that you think might not mix well with the college environment? Am I a crazy 21 year old with far off ambitions?
I know clothes are the hardest to pack, especially for us women! This tends to vary for each person and will depend on the length of your trip, but I will say that you need to pack for all weather types. No matter where you are in the U.S., the weather can change quickly! We were surprised by the temperatures in many places. It rarely seemed to be the weather we expected. Now, this doesn’t mean you need to bring everything in your closet.